Romano Amerio began his work, Iota Unum, with this exquisite statement:
“A precise use of words makes for a sound argument.”
Lack of a precise definition of “anti-Semite” is contributing to the blog war now raging over Andrew Sullivan, editor of The Daily Dish, and his understanding of “Jewish influence on American foreign policy.” Picked up by Shmuel Rosner on The Jerusalem Post, Leon Wieseltier (The New Republic), J. Chait (also TNR), and Sullivan play etymological tennis while the ever perspicacious Rosner injects sanity. We learn much from his judiciously chosen quotations from the match.
Wieseltier accuses Sullivan of anti-Semitism:
“Consider some squibs that Sullivan recently posted on his blog. “Most American Jews, of course, retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities (Jews, for example, are the ethnic group most sympathetic to gay rights),” he declared on January 13. “But the Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing – that celebrates and believes in government torture, endorses the pulverization of Gazans with glee, and wants to attack Iran – is something else. Something much darker.”
Michael Goldfarb is the former online editor of The Weekly Standard, about whom the less said, the better. Charles Krauthammer is Charles Krauthammer. I was not aware that they comprise a “wing” of American Jewry, or that American Jewry has “wings.” What sets them apart from their more enlightened brethren is the unacceptability of their politics to Sullivan.
Chait, also from the (TNR,) counters:
“Leon notes, correctly, that Andrew has begun repeating tropes that happen to track classic anti-Semitic canards. His obsession with the singular power of the Jewish lobby, writes Leon “has a provenance that should disgust all thinking people.” Agreed. But just because an idea has a revolting provenance, it does not follow that everybody who subscribes to any version of it shares the same motive. Leon agrees that the pro-Israel lobby wields significant power in U.S. policymaking, and determining this level of power is also a legitimate topic of inquiry. At one point on the spectrum of thought you have what Leon and I would consider a realistic assessment of the power of the Israel lobby. As you move further along the spectrum, you eventually approach Osama bin Laden’s view of the power of the Israel lobby. Clearly, bin Laden qualifies as an anti-Semite. But the judgment can’t be that as soon as you go just a little further along the line from my view, then you’re an anti-Semite.”
Sullivan fires back at Wieseltier:
“Then this assertion that I subscribe to some dark conspiracy theory that “the Jews control Washington.” I’m sorry but this really is a vile lie, a stark accusation of anti-Semitism, unsupported by any evidence. The only people I have ever heard refer continuously and emphatically to “the Jews” as a single global entity wrote for The New Republic. This was often humorous and self-mocking, of course, until it wasn’t.”
Because the designation of “anti-Semite” rightly carries its own condemnation, it is not surprising that Sullivan is trying to hit it out of his court. Chait attempts to reassure the scrupulous by setting the bar for being a “genuine” anti-Semite at the historic low of concurrence with…um…Osama Bin Laden!
One could power New York City for a week with the electricity wasted on this never-to-be-won battle. The argument is gaspillage, not because it is un-worthy, but because no man will condemn himself, and in this matter of hatred of Jewish people, dissimulation is virtually omnipresent. Surprisingly, it is Andrew Sullivan himself, who brings the discussion to its rightful domain when he admits:
“But I might as well state clearly what I do believe – and know almost no-one in Washington who isn’t a fanatic who doesn’t – that AIPAC’s perfectly legal, perfectly open, brilliantly conducted lobbying operation has massive influence in the Congress. Really, any dissenters?”
Thomas Aquinas teaches that a thing may be most profoundly known by discerning its final end, that for which the thing is made or for which it functions. To what end, for what final solution does Sullivan finger the AIPAC for its “massive influence in Congress?”
The AIPAC lobbies Washington for the single purpose of obtaining necessary American support for Israel’s continued existence. This Sullivan-begrudged assistance is the difference between the life and death of an entire country, a country surrounded by nations who only wait for the logical consequence of creeping, socially-accepted anti-Jewish propaganda to eliminate her. Why does a man professing attachment to free, democratic rule of law so bristle at the vision of Americans in Washington procuring the defense of an otherwise-compromised free democracy?
Sullivan will argue ad infinitum that he is not anti-Semitic. Chait will discern the precise level of distaste for Israel one may have and still move in polite society. Rather than trying to pin the tail on these donkeys, they must be confronted with the consequence of their insinuations. The final end of Sullivan’s “emphatically-non-anti-Semitic, non-criticism” of the AIPAC’s “massive influence” is the cessation of American support for Israel and the subsequent destruction of a people he really, really likes.